Group f/64 and the West Coast Photographic Movement

Although the photographs on Florida Memory are often discussed for their historic value, all exhibit some level of artistic direction and formal design elements.

A group of San Francisco-based photographers known as Group f/64 were renowned for their extreme focus and depth of field. Beginning in the late 1920s, Group f/64 formed as a sub-group of the West Coast Photographic Movement, a straight photography movement that worked against the prevailing pictorialist movement which attempted to mimic gestures of Romantic and Impressionist painting. The group included Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, John Paul Edwards, Sonya Noskowiak, Henry Swift, Willard Van Dyke, and Edward Weston.

Marjorie De Hartog, Close-up view of water hyacinth in the Everglades, c.1950s. Compare with photographs of the desert flora by Imogen Cunningham.

Group f/64’s name was derived from the extremely small aperture used in their large-format photography in photographing landscapes and close-up objects. The result is a severe, almost unnatural depth and crispness unattainable by the human eye or previous photography.

Scenic view of Lake Eola Park

Scenic view of Lake Eola Park – Orlando, Florida, n.d. Compare with Ansel Adams’ sober, high-contrast landscapes.

Their impact on photography became widespread by the 1930s and can be seen in many of the photographs in the Florida Photographic Collection. While the landscapes and objects have changed, the principles remain unchanged.

W.F. Jacobs, Detail of bark of black birch O'Leno State Park, Columbia County, Florida. 1940.

W.F. Jacobs, Detail of bark of black birch O’Leno State Park, Columbia County, Florida. 1940. Compare with the almost unrecognizable, uncomfortably close-up Edward Weston photographs.

While the images shown here were not necessarily inspired directly by this group, they are suggestive of the f/64 aesthetic. These formalist, aesthetic, and stylistic approaches foster new and different ways to engage with the images.

Close-up view of Jupiter Inlet Light Station - Palm Beach County, Florida

Close-up view of Jupiter Inlet Light Station – Palm Beach County, Florida Compare with the crisp architectural photographs of Willard van Dyck or John Paul Edwards.

 

Detail of whole-shell tabby concrete at the Kingsley Plantation State Historical Site - Fort George Island, Florida, 1981.

Detail of whole-shell tabby concrete at the Kingsley Plantation State Historical Site – Fort George Island, Florida, 1981. Compare with the disorienting and sometimes misleading details of Sonya Noskowiak.

Visit the Florida Photographic Collection and search for photos from your area.